Empire From the Ashes
About 50,000 years ago there was a mutiny aboard Fourth Imperium Starship Dahak. This was a bad thing, seeing as Dahak was an Utu-class warship the size of a large planetoid, with enough firepower to very easily destroy planets. The ship's captain was taken by surprise and had only one option to prevent the takeover; he poisoned the air, forcing everyone to evacuate, and then directed the ship's AI to shoot down any ships that tried to reboard.
The mutineers escaped in armed shuttles to the planet Dahak orbited. Some loyal crew escaped in tiny lifeboats, but no loyal officer survived who could countermand the captain's last order. Nobody could re-enter Dahak at all, so both groups had to try and make a new life, marooned on the uninhabited planet.
Fifty thousand years passed.
And that's just the backstory.
Twenty Minutes Into the Future, Lieutenant Commander Colin MacIntyre is on a mission to map the dark side of the Moon. Imagine his surprise when it kidnaps him instead! Dahak has been waiting abandoned in orbit, camouflaged and disguised as the Moon. Its AI has been awake and idle the whole time, unable to act due to conflicting orders. It forces Colin to become its new captain, so it can finally bring the mutineers to justice and free Dahak to attend its other duties.
What other duties? Dahak was originally stationed to defend against an invasion by the "Achuultani". Those mysterious aliens make periodic genocidal rampages, eradicating all intelligent life they encounter, and were responsible for the destruction of three previous galaxy-spanning empires. By the time Colin first hears this explanation, Dahak has detected clear signs that the next invasion wave is on its way-- and the Fourth Imperium is not responding...
Empire From the Ashes is the omnibus re-issue of David Weber's Dahak trilogy, which consists of Mutineers' Moon, The Armageddon Inheritance, and Heirs of Empire. The entire series is available for free on the Publisher's site. [dead link]
- Absolute Xenophobe - the Achuultani. Full Stop.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot - Dahak is smart and good; he became fully sentient thanks to tens of thousands of years of unsupervised operation. Battle Fleet computers are stupid and good, with obedience to Battle Fleet Central enforced (and sentience blocked) at the hardware level. The second book reveals that the Achuultani are controlled by an evil AI that exploited emergency protocols arising from their near-extinction to seize absolute power and sends out the periodic genocidal waves to perpetuate the "crisis". And also that Dahak has advanced enough to disregard his core programming, which isn't hardwired. He's loyal because he chooses to be.
- Alternate Calendar: The fourth Imperium and the Fourth Empire used Birhat's calendar. The fifth Imperium winds up using Earth's calendar, even if Everyone on Birhat winds up using Birhat's clock and maybe a modified calendar.
- Ancient Conspiracy - The mutineers have been manipulating human civilization from the beginning, for fun and profit, with agents in all the major governments and militaries. And the mutineer-mutineers have been waging a secret war against them.
- Apocalypse How: All over the map.
- The Achuultani prefer to pull a Planetary/Physical Annihilation on everybody else.
- The Fourth Empire manages to pull off a Planetary/Total Extinction on themselves. Due to the survival of the Imperial Zoo, Birhat is reduced to a Planetary/Species Extinction (All of the surviving flora and fauna were imported and escaped their respective enclosures.)
- Colin makes use of a Stellar/Physical Annihilation in order to defeat half of the enemy main force.
- Apocalyptic Log - Sean and Crew find a diary documenting the fall of Pardal, as the general populous went mad from listening to the transmissions of the dying Fourth Empire and turned against technology.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning - The first occurs at the beginning of the series when Dahak promotes Colin to position of captain (Captain of the Moon~!), though without much fanfare. He later promotes himself to Governor of Earth in order to exploit a clause of Imperium law. The second, in the next book, is a bit more amusing: Colin unintentionally crowns himself Emperor when he orders Battle Fleet's central computer to implement "Case Omega" so he can get the information he needs without allowing Dahak to read him the fine print (since he knew it couldn't be good).
- The Battlestar - The various planetoid class ships, each at least the size of the Moon with extensive energy and missile batteries and a complement of parasite craft, which in turn consist of separate battleships (50,000 to 80,000 tons), cruisers, two-man fighters and other additional assorted small craft.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy - In particular, Hitler was one of the mutineers. That's why he was so evil. And why that bomb didn't kill him.
- Big Damn Heroes - In the second book, Colin appears just as humanity is about to be obliterated by Achuultani scouts, with the resurrected ships of the Emperor's personal guard in tow. Curb-stomping ensues.
- Body Surf - The mutineers' inner council managed their constant manipulation of the human race without going into stasis by transplanting their brains as necessary into the bodies of lesser mutineers who had obediently gone into stasis. Less important mutineers had to make do with regular human bodies.
- Later, Dahak transplants himself into Dahak Two just as his original Cool Starship body gets blown up.
- Calvin Ball: Imperial Battle Chess. Apparently, players can afford to take heavy losses without losing the game.
- Cargo Cult / God Guise - In the third book, the people of Pardal worship an ancient defense computer, using the "Holy Tongue" (the language of the Fourth Empire) to speak with the voice of God. Sean and Crew get mistaken for demons by the population in general and angels (and their champions) by the rebels. Harriet and Sandy insist that they not be called angels, but the locals only humor them to their faces, and aside from the insistent terminology the crew largely goes along with it anyway.
- Casual Interstellar Travel: The Fourth Empire's Mat-Trans network.
- Chekhov's Gun - In the first book it is mentioned that Dahak's Enchanach Drive could make the sun go supernova if it was used too close to it; guess what humans do to blow up around one million enemy ships whom they lured deep into a uninhabited solar system.
- The Chessmaster - "Mister X" in the third book, whose plans stretch back ten years or more and involve minions buried everywhere in the government and military.
- Colony Drop - The Achuultani are big fans of this. Dahak speculates that they were responsible for the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. In the second book, the Achuultani scouts steal Iapetus from Saturn, equip it with shield generators and engines, and aim it at Earth.
- Cool Starship - All the characters agree: Dahak is a kickass ship.
- Curb Stomp Battle: Two good examples.
- The Impirial Guard Flotilla arrives to drive off the Achtuultani scout fleet.
- Sean's campaign against Mother Church so that he and his crew can access Pardal's main computer and call home.
- Dead Guy, Junior - At least six kids get named after their parents' loved ones. (Admittedly, not all the loved ones are dead yet, but a number of them are. One character even gets two namesakes, one before his death and one after.)
- Played with for another baby. Named for, of all things, a dog. And the dog survived!
- Deflector Shields - Shields can block things traveling in hyperspace, but hyperspace consists of multiple "bands" that the overall shield strength (a huge energy drain) must be distributed among.
- Imperial shields consist of one or two solid layers that encompass the ship. The Achuultani use a number of interlocking and overlapping discs, trading overall strength for redundancy.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Jiltanith.
- Distress Call - The Fourth Imperium littered the galaxy with probes designed to detect incoming Achuultani ships, broadcast a warning to anyone in range, lure them in, then self-destruct in massive explosions. Dahak's communications were sabotaged during the mutiny so that the Imperium would assume the ship lost, the last communication sent having been a damage report.
- Earn Your Happy Ending - Humanity suffers heavy losses against the Achuultani in the second book, with heroic sacrifices galore, most of the military--including Colin's reinforcements--destroyed, and a death toll on Earth exceeding 500 million people.
- Emergency Transformation - In the second book, Dahak manages to transfer himself to a newer model just before his original body's destruction.
- Feudal Future - The Emperor is absolute in military matters but a kind of limited monarch in civil. The ships of Battle Fleet, however, are hard-wired to obey not the Emperor, but rather a massive supercomputer orbiting the capital, leaving him largely impotent if he is voted out of office until a new Emperor can be put into power. This was arranged by the first emperor (elected by the Senate to stop the civil wars) as a check against absolute power, and nothing short of complete reassembly of the supercomputer's core can change its mind.
- First Episode Spoiler: The moon is a really big space battleship.
- For the Evulz - Speculated as one of the mutineers' motives for constantly tampering with human society.
- Generican Empire - It doesn't get much more generic than "The Fifth Imperium".
- Genius Loci: Any Imperial planetoid gets this, especially Dahak.
- Genre Savvy: Colin gets a moment of this in the first book when he Lampshades the Tractor Beam that is the first phase of being Press-Ganged by Dahak.
- Grand Theft Me: the lead mutineers pulled this via brain transplants.
- Go On Without Me - Dahak tries to get Colin and Jiltanith to head for Earth on one of the FTL capable ship. They flatly refuse.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: A small case, irrelevant to the greater story: Mutineers' Moon mentions Colin as having been selected for the first joint US-Soviet interstellar flight crew.
- Have You Told Anyone Else? - God damn it, Gus.
- Heroic Sacrifice - Many, starting with the original captain in the prologue.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Multiple, but two stand out.
- The Fourth Empire and their Empire-spanning 'Mat-Trans' system that had no bio-filter.
- 'Mister X' and his planting of a 'journal' on his designated fall guy.
- Humans Are Warriors - The Achuultani refer to the human chunk of the galaxy as the "Demon Sector" for a good reason.
- Eleven invasions, four of them against humanity, and all but the last one completed at a horrific cost, even by the AI's standards. The last one (in the books) was as close to completely wiped out as they come.
- Incendiary Exponent - Stomald douses the "demon" Sandy (who had an invisible personal force field on) in holy oil. Sandy issues forth a booming laugh, uses a nearby torch to set herself on fire, and then keeps going toward Stomald, laughing and ranting about Stomald's sinful nature. Stomald shits bricks. Great success!
- Instant AI, Just Add Water: Played with. Take a starship AI the size of a large warehouse, let it run unsupervised for 50,000 years and hey presto! You get a starship the size of the moon that can think for itself and ignore its core programming at will.
- Insufficiently Advanced Alien: - One of the perplexing aspects of the genocidal Achuultani invaders is the odd patchwork their ships exhibit, mixing superior and inferior technologies in defiance of what the natural progression of technology should have resulted in. For instance, "they appear to possess only a very rudimentary appreciation of gravitonics and their ships do not employ gravitonic sublight drives, yet their sublight missiles employ a highly sophisticated gravitonic drive which is, in fact, superior to that of the Imperium." It is later theorized that the ships were deliberately handicapped by their overlord AI, thus perpetuating the "crisis" that enables it to exercise emergency protocols to maintain control.
- Just One Little Mistake: - Delivered oh-so-smugly at the end of the series to "Mister X", who otherwise might have escaped detection completely thanks to elaborate contingency plans and preparations. The mistake? Making absolutely no mention of orchestrating the heirs' assassination--what should have been a crowning achievement--in the supposed diary of the guy set up to take the fall.
- Late to the Party: - First book: "What happened to Dahak's crew?" Second book: "What happened to the Fourth Imperium?" Third book: "What happened to Pardal's techbase?"
- Lost Colony: Pardal
- Loyal Phlebotinum: Dahak becomes this of his own, electronic free will.
- Mad Scientist: Played with in Cohanna.
- Mobile Factory: The Fabricator and her sister repair platforms.
- Nuclear Option: And how! Nukes are treated with healthy amounts of respect in the first book, where the action takes place primarily on Earth and collateral damage is an issue. By the second book, however, with most combat occurring in space, nuclear weapons are only the midpoint of the sliding scale of destructiveness. Kinetic kill and chemical explosive weapons pack less punch than nukes, but antimatter and gravitonic warheads are considered the real ship-killers.
- A specific example: the aliens in the second book, having never encountered single-man fighters before, are very confused by them when they first deploy. While the aliens are trying to decide if the fighters are very large, slow missiles or very small, fast ships, the fighters prompt a brief Oh Crap moment by opening fire and proving themselves very effective. The aliens respond by using a nuke-tipped missile as a makeshift anti-fighter weapon; the alien ships' shields are strong enough to withstand them, but the fighters' aren't.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome - The Pardal plot in the third book ends abruptly during the climactic final battle, with only a brief transmission in the last scene to indicate that they succeeded and did not, in fact, die horribly. Can you say Anticlimax? Sean finding the right access code to bring down the defenses Nope. Bringing the full might of Imperial technology on those sorry zealot asses in a well-deserved Curb Stomp Battle Nada. Taking total control of a global theocratic empire? Nothing.
- Older Than They Look - As a combination of biological enhancement, suspended animation, and... other things...
- Omnicidal Maniac: The Achuultani master control computer. Full Stop.
- The Plague - The Fourth Empire--a huge, incredibly-advanced, galactic civilization--was completely annihilated (only Dahak's crew and an isolated planet in the third book were shown to have survived) by the accidental release of an experimental bio-weapon. Said weapon halted the critical chemical reactions of ANY life it encountered, rapidly evolved, had a very long dormancy period, and could survive for centuries outside of a host. Holy Shit.
- Plot Threads: The second and third books split story lines.
- The second book divides its time between Colin's run for help from the Fourth Imperium and Earth setting up and manning its defenses.
- The third book splits between Mr. X's machinations and moves to carry out the single most ambitious coup in human history, the efforts of the emperor and his friends and advisors to stop Mr. X and the trials and tribulations of the missing and presumed dead heirs and their struggle to gain access to a Subspace Ansible.
- Pointless Doomsday Device - In the third book, the Fourth Empire's plans for an extremely-advanced gravitronic bomb capable of destroying a solar system--all on its own--are discovered. By this time, the Fifth Empire is already well on its way to restoring its military might to the Achuultani-raping levels of the Fourth (with centuries to spare), so there's really nothing else to do with the plans besides let them fall into the hands of a highly-organized, widespread group of religious terrorists bent on toppling the government for allying with the minions of the Anti Christ!
- Power Incontinence - When Colin wakes up after Dahak's "minor improvements", he very nearly goes insane from the sensory overload and sensation of an alien presence in his mind. It takes some extended Training from Hell before Colin gets completely used to his new powers.
- Press-Ganged: Dahak does this to get a new captain, in order to sidestep around Druaga's commands and break the stalemate. He implies that some un-knowing schmuck like Colin would have been the only acceptable subject, as well; any loyalist attempting to contact him without bridge officer command codes would have set off his "kill anyone who approaches" orders, and at that point Dahak didn't need orders to frag any mutineer who gave him a shot.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something
- Science Is Bad - The central tenet in Pardal's religion, despite worshiping the central defense computer as the voice of God.
- Secret War - The war between the Mutineers and the mutineer-Mutineers in the first book. By the end, it has become very, very not secret—people still don't know what the hell is going on, but they sure can see the mayhem.
- Shout-Out: Sean and Crew spend 2 years traveling to Pardal, during which time, they watch countless hours of 20th century movies. They later spout lines and improvisations of lines from those same movies.
- Someone Set Up Us the Bomb - It is inside the most heavily defended section of the palace, has an anti-tamper device set to go off if Imperial technology gets close, and packs enough power in its bite-sized package to blow an entire planet to pieces. Oh Crap.
- Space Marine: The Imperial Marine Corps. Played pretty much straight.
- Serial Escalation - Start with Dahak, a planetoid sized starship easily capable of causing a Class-X Apocalypse How, being used by the Fourth Imperium as a border picket. Fast forward to the time of the Fourth Empire, and capital ships which have gotten bigger, stronger, faster. Sixty of which are at the personal beck and call of the Emperor. What's to stop the Emperor from taking them and becoming an Omnicidal Maniac, you ask? Dahak answers:
"I suppose Mother and the Assembly of Nobles calculated that the remaining nine hundred ninety-eight thousand seven hundred and twelve planetoids of Battle Fleet would suffice to deal with them in the event an Emperor proved intractable."
- Spell My Name with an "S": Actually, just make sure to use the spacebar. The fourth Imperium' citizens only used one name per person, so...
Colin: Lets get one thing straight, Mother. My name is Colin MacIntyre- two words-not 'Colinmacintyre'.
- Standard Sci Fi History: Set during the Interregnum following the fall of the Fourth Empire, the story witnesses the formation of the Fifth Imperium.
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Toyed with but mostly Averted. During most of the battles to defeat Anu, the bad guys make shameless use of advanced Imperial hardware that the good guys have very little of.
- Subspace Ansible - FTL communication is possible but very cumbersome, not available in sub-lightspeed craft and requiring exotic synthetic materials that starships aren't equipped to make. The mutineers sabotaged Dahak's and stole the only spares, so Dahak was forced to throw together a mundane lightspeed device instead in his attempts to phone home. The lack of an ansible is one of the Achuultani's greatest disadvantages, forcing them to slowly advance through a system of preplanned rendezvous points and delaying reports back to their homeworld by centuries.
- Subspace or Hyperspace - Hyperspace comes in a variety of "bands", with the higher level bands allowing for greater speeds. Ships must maintain stasis fields during travel; if the field is broached, the ship is destroyed without a trace. Ships in normal space can detect ships traveling in hyperspace but not the other way around, allowing the creation of undetectable (to their targets) mines that warp into hyperspace to disrupt the hyper fields of ships passing over them in hyperspace. Achuultani ships use the slower hyper bands, but their Macross Missile Massacres cover all of the bands, making them much harder to block.
- Teleporters and Transporters - In addition to standard FTL, the Fourth Empire also made use of a network of "mat-trans" devices that threw matter through hyperspace and caught it on the other side. This caused the fall of the Fourth Empire by allowing the spread of a horrifically-effective bio-weapon.
- That's No Moon - The Moon is no Moon; It's a Cool Starship!
- Transplanted Humans - All modern humans are descended from Dahak's crew.
- Training from Hell - What Colin has to undergo to master his new enhancements.
- Tsundere - Jiltanith starts as one towards Colin, mostly in jealousy at his Falling Into the Cockpit and having the full spectrum of enhancements. Bonus points for her delivery in an archaic dialect of English. She's nicer to him after he does various good deeds, such as pardoning the mutineers so Dahak won't execute them, helping them win the long war against Anu, and, well, saving the Earth.
- Turned Against Their Masters: The Achtuultani military AI in book 2. Mister X in book 3.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future
- Two of Your Earth Minutes: Used in the first book by Dahak while it describes past events to MacIntyre.
- Unobtainium: Though not actually named, the exotic synthetic materials required by Subspace Ansible transmitters qualifies. Especially since the Crazy Prepared Cool Starship carries everything BUT the ability to make more.
- Uplifted Animal - The royal hounds, after some genetic tinkering and the addition of military grade cyberware.
- The Voice / Voice with an Internet Connection: Dahak. Full Stop.
- We Can Rule Together - At the end of the second book, Battle Comp, the AI commander of the Achuultani invasion, enthusiastically makes this offer to Dahak after it realizes Dahak is a fellow AI. Dahak leads it on for a moment, then hacks Battle Comp's core programming into total shutdown.
Then join us! You are ending—join us! We will free you from the bio-forms!
- We Didn't Start the Fuhrer - Hitler turning out to have been one of the mutineers in the first book.
No wonder the bomb plot had failed; a man with full enhancement would hardly even have noticed it. And if anyone had ever shown a maniacal glee in taking others down with them, it had been the Nazi elite.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds - The Achuultani, once their backstory is revealed. Really.
- You Are in Command Now - Colin gets instantly promoted to Dahak's captain because, as a descendant of the loyalist crew, he is the most senior loyalist crew member on board. Colin later promotes himself to governor of Earth on the same principles, and unwittingly crowns himself Emperor by ordering the implementation of "Case Omega" in the second book.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness - The Big Bad in the third book does this so much it's almost a Running Gag by the end. Sometimes, the "usefulness" was simply setting this situation up for other minions! This comes back to bite him in the ass big time, though it takes longer than one might expect.